My Nutrition Research

Part of my internship with the Rwanda Project is to conduct nutrition research. This involves asking a lot of questions to understand what people eat and why they eat the way that they do. At the conclusion of each nutrition training I have been able to ask the farmers questions about their diets. I’m very grateful to Tracy and Odeth for helping me ask these questions, as it would be impossible to do on my own.

I ask my questions in a focus group, so about 6 to 8 farmers circle around and discuss their answers to my questions. Usually they all come to an agreement and Tracy or Odeth will report it back to me. I have been able to do 6 focus groups so far, and they have yielded some very interesting information. I will share some of my initial findings here:

In every focus group I always ask “How many times a day do you eat?”

The answer is always “lunch and an evening meal.” Some have said that sometimes food is not available and then they will only eat in the evening. Interestingly, there is no such thing as snacking here. That is difficult for me to imagine because I don’t think I’ve ever gone a day without a snack to keep me going!

The response to my question “What are your feelings about chicken?” is always smiles and laughs. Tracy sometimes whispers to me, “This is the most obvious question. Of course they are so happy!” This is so incredible to hear because many of the farmers had only eaten chicken a few times in their life before participating in this project.

Four of my focus groups so far have been with farmers who already attended a nutrition training last year. These groups all reported using the “1 pot – 1 hour” method that they learned to cook their chicken. This is very great news because it saves the farmers time and money and it shows that our nutrition trainings are having a lasting impact.

Two of my focus groups so far have been with farmers who have never attended a nutrition training. I asked these farmers what they learned, and these are some of the answers I received:

“How to eat a balanced meal”

“The shopping activity showed me that I don’t need a lot of money to eat healthily”

“You only need a little money to buy everything you need”

“Giving biscuits (cookies) to my kids has been a priority for me. Now I will try and swap them with eggs”

“I did not know that eggs had any value”

These answers took my breath away. I found it incredible that many people didn’t know that eggs had any nutritional value. I truly saw the importance of these nutrition trainings as I saw the farmers excitedly nod their heads, saying that they would start purchasing eggs for their families.

I think an example of resiliency is how the farmers only eat 2 meals a day, and many only eat 1 meal a day. They perform manual labor for hours on end, but they only get to replenish their bodies once or twice a day. There was no embarrassment or shame behind these answers, however. It is simply the way things are for farmers here. They are content with what they have, and they are so grateful for any extra bit they can get. It would take an incredibly resilient person to live that lifestyle of constant work and little rest.

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